October 17, 2010


The thing I love best about my Cybils reading is that I have an excuse to set aside everything else and just indulge. I love that about the 48 Hour Book Challenge, too. Sorry, can't talk now -- gotta read. Oh, and could you bring me my chocolate covered almonds? Thanks. Now, go away.

Guilty pleasures are the books that I can - and will - read over and over again. Here are two novels I've really enjoyed for their quick pace, mystery and sugar-rush addiction storylines:

Hearts at Stake (The Drake Chronicles Book 1) by Alyxandra Harvey: Solange has loved Lucy, her best-best-best friend since they were wee. Lucy is crazy-fierce, and sticks by her, no matter that at sixteen, Solange is due to, er, die, and become a vampire like her seven older brothers and her parents, Lucy loves Solange to bits, even though she's the only human around the place, and defends Solange's right to live as humanly as possible until it's no longer an option. Solange is squeamish about blood, but she's got no choice about the vampire thing -- in her family, vampirism and change is a blood disorder, and already her body is shutting down, showing the signs of the weakness, fever and illness which presages the change. Solange is scared, but Lucy is terrified. Some vampires don't survive...

Born vampires like the seven Drake kids are rare. Female born vampires? Vanishingly rare, as in, Solange is the only one in some hundreds of years. This makes a lot of people way too interested in her. Crazy Lady Natasha, the queen of the vampire court, is pretty sure that Solange is out to steal the throne. She is, after all, next in line, according to tradition and an ancient prophesy...

As if it's not enough to be a girl of myth -- and on her way to being dead -- the anti-vampire league has published a Field Guide to Vampires for their human agents, who come armed all hours of the day and night, with stakes (one of them is really cute, too. Okay, how weird is it to be attracted to a guy with a stake who thinks your family killed his father?), and Solange is apparently now putting out some kind of pheromone which is attracting whacked-out vampires from all corners of the kingdom to her who must, er, breed with her or die. And all of them are sending gifts -- flowers, jewelery, kitten hearts.

Kitten hearts. Cause nothing says L-O-V-E like dismembered felines for a girl who is squeamish about the whole I-am-a-vampire thing.

Solange is really, really, really grateful for Lucy. As crazy as she is (and what is going on with Lucy and her brother, Nicholas?), the girl is at least normal. Mostly.

Okay, yeah, I said I was done with vampire novels, but I am a huge sucker for well-told family stories. By the time I was done reading this, I wanted seven well-intentioned and annoying brothers, a cellar full of weapons, and a Mom who had a kickin' back handspring and could stake people who got on her nerves. The Drakes are people readers will want to know, and they'll be glad that sequel to this one is out already. I'll have to track it down.

Hex Hall (Hex Hall Book 1), by Rachel Mercer: Okay, so it was maybe somewhat of a mistake in judgment. Sophie Mercer was just trying to help the sniffly, geeky girl who was crying in the next stall. I mean, it was prom. Sophie did just one little spell -- and man, all sorts of chaos was unleashed. Who knew that everyone would blame her?

And just like that -- Sophie's father steps in from whatever dimension he usually occupies while ignoring she and her human-normal mother -- and bam -- he's in charge of her life. His decision? For her little witchery prank, she's sentenced to Hex Hall, which is basically juvenile hall for monsters. The wayward children of the Prodigium all attend there - shapeshifters, faeries, warlocks and witches, none of who can seem to blend in seamlessly with the larger mundane world.

Sophie is both terrified and angry, and when she's assigned a vampire as a roommate, and a werewolf almost bites her within the first five minutes of being there, she knows this is going to be one long, long year.

If there's anything I like just as well as a family story, it's a school story, and this has all the traditional earmarks -- annoying teachers, gross P.E. uniforms, the one male teacher who thinks he's God's gift, and the senior level warlock on whom everyone crushes, even though they a.) know it's hopeless, b.) know he's a unmitigated snob, and c.) knows he's dating the head of the Pretty Committee. Add to that this random ghost that keeps appearing, some highly suspicious deaths, furniture which changes based on one's state of mind, and being drooled on by the werewolf girl down the hall -- and you'll be glad of the novel's fast pace and soon be ready for the next one - which, incidentally, will be out in March.

Other Cybs books read this week, but quite ably reviewed elsewhere: Jekel Loves Hyde, by Beth Fantaskey, reviewed in Leila's own Terrible Team of Something inimitable style, The Dark Divine, by Bree Despain, reviewed at YA Books Central, The Iron King and The Iron Daughter, by Julie Kagawa, reviewed at The Book Nook.

You'll find HEX HALL, HEARTS AT STAKE, and loads of your own guilty pleasures at an independent bookstore near you!


aquafortis said...

Okay, HEX HALL sounds like all kinds of fun. I'll be looking for it--I'm kind of a sucker for a really good supernatural school story.

Hm. *I* want chocolate-covered almonds.

Leila said...

Hex Hall is awesome. Loved it.

Glad to see that Josh's words are living on in infamy -- he'll be so proud.

And I'd like some chocolate-covered almonds, since I just finished off a bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds.